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My Pet World: New gene therapy offers hope for sterilizing female cats without surgery

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I am the birth control advocate. We have had birth control for the human species for over 50 years. Why don't we have effective non-surgical sterilization for our beloved dogs and cats that suffer so in most parts of the world?

— Francine, Killingworth, Connecticut

Dear Francine,

Researchers have been trying to develop a pill or injection to address pet reproduction for more than 20 years now. Dogs’ and cats’ reproductive cycles are uniquely different from humans, so coming up with a solution has been challenging. Some previous efforts have led to severe side effects.

A few weeks ago, though, I wrote about a pill called megestrol acetate that was used on community cats during the pandemic to halt their reproductive cycles. Since it took longer than usual to get a spay-neuter appointment, this became a short-term solution. But it wasn’t a long-term one. As with any “birth control,” the community cat caretakers would have had to give the community cats the medication indefinitely, which is not feasible in that scenario.

 

In early June 2023, however, there was some welcome news for birth control advocates. Researchers announced the development of a genetic treatment — a one-time injection that would halt ovulation in cats. It's considered safe and effective and lasts at least two years without side effects.

In the time it takes to trap one cat and take her to and from a clinic for her spay surgery, a single person could administer this injection to dozens, maybe even hundreds of cats. A quick internet search should reveal dozens of articles about this new treatment.

If results hold out, this injection could "make a huge impact in the cat and dog overpopulation crisis worldwide," says Joyce Briggs, president of the Alliance for Contraception for Cats and Dogs.

"However, the possibility of that being available to pet owners is still likely years away — given the necessities of regulatory approval designed to assure all new pet health products are safe and effective," Briggs added.

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